The Holy Spirit knows the Father’s thoughts and communicates those thoughts to believers. When you pray or read the Bible and sense God speaking to you through that, that is an example of the Holy Spirit at work in your life. The Holy Spirit is an equal among and a true member of what is known as “the Godhead.” The Godhead is made up of three equal persons living in perfect unity with each other. Believing this is vital to understanding the powerful role the Spirit plays in the lives of Christians and the way God is active in the world. The Holy Spirit is God. Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit interact and exist in community with one another. The Holy Spirit has many different roles. But the first thing to understand is that the Holy Spirit is given to people who believe in Jesus to bind them together with God and help them become more like Him. For Christians, the experience of eternal life does not begin at death but when they trust in Jesus and God places His spirit within them. Throughout the Bible, the Holy Spirit equips people for ministry, gives people specific insight and wisdom, teaches people how to interpret God’s Word, communicates with the Father on people’s behalf, and empowers Christians to live according to God’s design. The Holy Spirit is unique and creative. The more you learn about Him, the easier it is to recognize His presence in your life. Jesus is easy to find in Scripture. In a sense, He is everywhere, but we also have four books, known as Gospels, which are biographies of His life specifically. In the book of Jeremiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament, we see early references to God as Father. This is also how Jesus often referred to Him when He was teaching. But at first glance, it may be unclear where the Holy Spirit shows up in God’s Word. And yet the more you know what to look for, the easier it is to see Him throughout Scripture. Jesus Himself was filled with the Holy Spirit in order to carry out His ministry. “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free”
Gods entire message to us is a story of #redemption- literally, physically, allegorically, symbolically, and spiritually. Thats the “#good #news.” In the NT Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection is the most prominent example of #redemption. This redemption he wants others to experience, which is why he commands his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Fifth, Jesus brought #restoration. The intertestamental period of about 400 years kept God’s people waiting. To #restore, means to fix what was #broken. God promises a #messiah repeatedly in the OT, and he finally comes in the *person and *work of #Jesus #Christ, although he did -not come- as they *expected him to. He came *humbly, riding on a *donkey. When he came, he started the restoration process which will finish when he returns- all things will be restored as God originally intended. What did Jesus do during his earthly ministry? He came to *reveal (himself), *redeem(God’s elect), and *restore(affects of sin). He also came to *fulfill OT prophecies *written -about him- and to bear #witness to the #truth. His -intentions- #reveal his *actions, and we can find these truths from reading the Gospels. What an amazing #Savior we have! Jesus Christ referred to the Holy Spirit as the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor), “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will -send- in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your *remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). Just as it is necessary to -know who a person is- before we can “sincerely welcome” him, we need to know *who the -Holy Spirit- is before we can wholeheartedly *receive and *trust Him. The #Holy #Spirit is also referred to as the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), and the “#Spirit of #grace” (Hebrew10:29). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of #God, who *indwells, *guides, *teaches, *empowers believers to accomplish God’s *purposes. God the Spirit secures the #gift of salvation -through- the indwelling, sealing, and sanctifying -works in the life- of every Christ believer (John 14:16).
Many Christians in the West are concerned that our secular societies are becoming more inhospitable to Christian faith and practice. We often feel persecuted. In no way do I want to minimize the headwinds we’re now facing in the countries that formerly constituted Christendom. But to get desperately needed perspective, we must listen to the voices of believers in parts of the world where the opposition is much more pervasive and often takes the form of violence. This is the situation for Christians in large swaths of Asia—East, South, and West.
They are indeed learning what the words of our Lord mean:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:11–12, NIV)
Christians in the West seldom have to test these important words of Jesus in the way our brothers and sisters in Asia have. Chinese Christians in particular have had reason in recent years to rely on this promise of Jesus.
There are at least four things to learn from these verses.
1. ‘Blessed are you when people insult you.’
Not “Blessed are you if people insult you.” Every beatitude is a characteristic of a Christian. Every Christian must be poor in spirit, or you’re not a Christian; every Christian must hunger and thirst after righteousness, or you’re not a Christian. This is the last of the Beatitudes, which means Jesus assumes that if you’re a Christian, you will be persecuted. If you’re living consistently with Christianity, you will experience some kind of loss, some pushback, some opposition (see 2 Tim. 3:12 for confirmation of this interpretation: “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”).
2. We are only blessed if the persecution is ‘because of me [Jesus].’
Not “because of you.” Peter says something similar in 1 Peter 4:15: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” The word translated “meddler” is an amazing Greek word. It means to be a busybody or to be tactless. What Peter and Jesus are saying is, if you’re talking about your Christian faith in a feckless way, a tactless way, an abrasive way, an insensitive way, a culturally inappropriate way, and people oppose you, don’t say, “I am being persecuted for Jesus’s sake!” No, you are being persecuted for yoursake. If you’re being obnoxious, the promise of blessedness doesn’t hold.
3. Persecution because of Jesus results in praise for the Father.
Here is one way to determine whether you’re being persecuted for Jesus’s sake or for your own sake:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:13–16, NIV)
Some people will look at your life and faith and persecute you; others will look at that same life and will “praise your Father in heaven.” Some non-Christians will respond with hostility, while others will be attracted by your life and persuaded by your testimony.
I propose that this is a great way to test ourselves. If we are only persecuted and few or no people are finding faith or being attracted to Jesus through us, then we’re likely being persecuted for our tactlessness.
If we are never persecuted, then we’re likely compromising or being too quiet about our faith. But if both of those things are happening—if you are persecuted and your testimony is bearing fruit—you’re in a sweet spot. Speaking the truth without love will only bring opposition; being loving without insisting on the truth is cowardice. One of the most worrisome things about the church in the West is that we are not seeing much persecution or attraction, and surely that is an indictment.
4. We can experience the promise of blessedness through meditating on Jesus.
Finally, how do we get the blessedness that Jesus says comes if you’re persecuted for his sake?
That blessedness is a fascinating promise. It means the Holy Spirit will rest on you in a special way. It means his character will come into your life and be created, and it will shape you in a special way. It likely also means that you will see some people attracted to Jesus because of, not in spite of, the persecution.
But I suggest you not be passive, that you actively go in prayer to God during times of persecution to seek the joy, love, and courage you need. One way to do that is to meditate on Jesus in the following way.
If we are only persecuted and few or no people are finding faith or being attracted to Jesus through us, then we’re likely being persecuted for our tactlessness.
tells us that Jesus “emptied himself” of his glory. The King James Version translates these verses to say that Jesus, even though he was equal with the Father, “made himself of no reputation.” He had glory, and he had honor. He had the name, but he became rejected. He was shamed, humiliated—voluntarily. Crucifixion was not only a way to execute people. It was intentionally the most humiliating and ignominious death the Romans could come up with. Death on a cross was a dishonorable death. That means Jesus died in absolute shame so that you and I will not die in shame. We are going to have a name that lasts forever. Our names are written in heaven, inscribed in God’s book. We are going to live with honor and glory forever because Jesus experienced shame and humiliation.
Now if you take a little hit to your reputation, if you get persecuted a little bit, knowing what Jesus did for you, can you bear that shame, knowing that he took the ultimate shame so that you could have the ultimate honor? Yes—if you meditate on Jesus’s humiliation, the blessedness that comes will help you to endure your own humiliation.
This is a sobering message. But look—it ends in joy. “Rejoice and be glad,” Jesus says. Why? “Because great is your reward in heaven.” Look at that hope and know you have the name that will never perish. Know you have an honor and a glory that will never fade. There’s a note of this joy that runs throughout the testimonies and reflections in Faith in the Wilderness: Words of Exhortation from the Chinese Church.
In early 2020, I witnessed this joy firsthand as thousands of Chinese house church Christians met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While they gathered to encourage one another with gospel hope in the face of growing persecution, cases of COVID-19 broke out across their cities back home. They returned to China not in fear but with bold hope, knowing their home abides in the heavenly city, which cannot be destroyed.
Let us learn from the witness of our Chinese brothers and sisters so we can stand fast all the better as we face trials wherever we live.
Matt18:12/Luke15:4-from these passages we -understand- it is -Jesus- who leaves the 99. This is because he used short relatable stories to share deeper spiritual insights about Himself, His Father, and His Kingdom. The lost sheep parables are no different and point to considerable truths. To better understand these truths, we’ll need to take a closer look at the nature of parables and what is implied by the stories of the lost sheep. In Luke, the lost sheep, loving shepherd, and remaining flock, spoke so brilliantly and effectively to their respective situations. And they did so because the familiar points of reference added depth to what Jesus was trying to relay. Today, it’s a bit harder to relate to this culture of ancient Israel, so it helps to read these #parables with a little #context. For instance, Psalm 100:3 is one of many places where -God’s people- are referred to as sheep. It says, “Know that the Lord is God… we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” This theme of believers of Jesus, or Christians, being sheep is repeated all throughout (Matt10:6; Mark14:27; Isaiah53:6; Jer50:6), used again in both parables, among other places. These parables combined speak to the complete body of Christ. To the sheep who are already in the fold, and to the sheep who are yet to come. Both to the lost sinner, and again to the found saint. Most predominantly, we recognize this in the life of the “lost” sinner, “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke15:4). While we were sinners, Christ died for us, (Romans 5:8) thus securing an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12) and tearing the *curtain between us and God (Hebrews10:20) that from -His fullness- we can *receive #grace upon grace (John 1:16). The Shepherd goes after the sheep who are his(Matt18:12; Luke 15:4; 2 Timothy 2:19) amid the goats and the wolves(Matt25:33; Matt7:15). It is His sheep that hear and recognize their Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27), for they have been #chosen and #predestined to do so (Eph 1:4-5).